Robert Brustein, Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Suffolk University and a man the New York Times calls “one of the renaissance men of the modern stage” has written a masterful and engaging exploration of both Shakespeare’s works and his age, The Tainted Muse: Prejudice and Presumption in Shakespeare and His Time.
Brustein’s goal is to get inside the mind of the inscrutable playwright and discover his prejudices. What did Shakespeare really think about Jews and blacks, women and intellectuals?
Brustein reveals Shakespeare’s complicated attitudes toward women; his dislike of womanish men; his admiration of blunt, plain-spoken men; his reverence for monarchy and his distrust of democracy; his complex treatment of blacks, Jews, and slaves; and his even more complex metaphysics.
The Tainted Muse ranges over the whole of Shakespeare’s canon, from the early histories to the later romances, giving special attention to Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and The Tempest.
Brustein draws comparisons to plays by Marlowe, Middleton and Marston in investigating how Shakespeare and his contemporaries were preoccupied with similar themes yet treated the prejudices of the day in their own ways. He gives us a picture of Shakespeare as an artist who inevitably reflects the predilections of his age, yet almost always manages to transcend them.
Robert Brustein was founding director of the Yale Repertory Theatre and of the American Repertory Theatre and was drama critic for the New Republic for almost 50 years. He is the author of six plays, 11 adaptations, and 16 books, including The Theater of Revolt and Millennial Stages: Essays and Reviews, 2001– 2005. As a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Suffolk University, he lectures on Shakespearian tragedies, directing and theater criticism. In 2007, the Suffolk University Theatre Department produced his play, The English Channel. He will be teaching Play Analysis, an upper-level Theatre Department course in the fall.